- Serum Institute chief tweeted about vaccine production, distribution
- Covishield vaccine is currently in Phase 2 and Phase 3 human trials
- India is second worst-hit country by coronavirus
Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the Serum Institute of India - the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume and which is conducting trials of Covid vaccine candidates ahead of mass production - took to Twitter today to highlight challenges in vaccine production and distribution in the country.
"Quick question: will the Government of India have 80,000 crores available over the next one year? Because that is what the Ministry of Health needs to buy and distribute the vaccine to everyone in India. This is the next concerning challenge we need to tackle," Mr Poonawalla said.
"I ask this question, because we need to plan and guide, vaccine manufacturers both in India and overseas to service the needs of our country in terms of procurement and distribution," he added.
I ask this question, because we need to plan and guide, vaccine manufacturers both in India and overseas to service the needs of our country in terms of procurement and distribution.— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) September 26, 2020
Covishield - the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and pharma giant AstraZeneca and being tested by the SII in India - is currently in Phase 2 and Phase 3 human trials.
In July, when Mr Poonawalla spoke to NDTV, he suggested the Covishield vaccine, if made available, would cost around Rs 1,000. He also said India would get around 30 million doses per month and that it could take up to two years for the entire country to be inoculated.
However, as Bloomberg pointed out in its report, there are concerns over storage and delivery barriers - points Mr Poonawalla seemed to be raising in his tweets today. Bloomberg also pointed out that India "had no experience of, and infrastructure for, mass immunisation across age groups".
During his Independence Day speech last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that when a viable vaccine was ready the government had a plan to ensure that it reached every Indian.
"Three vaccines are in different stages of testing. When scientists give the go-ahead, we are ready with a plan for production. How the vaccine will reach every Indian in the least amount of time - we have a roadmap ready for that," the Prime Minister said.
Last week Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said the government planned to use the Universal Immunisation Program (UIP) - which was introduced in India in 1978 as the Expanded Programme of Immunisation and covers all districts in a phased manner - to distribute the vaccine.
In addition to Covishield, other vaccine candidates are also being tested across the country. Indigenous vaccine developers Bharat Biotech are in Phase 2 trials with COVAXIN and Zydus Cadila is waiting to receive approvals for Phase 3 clinical trials for its vaccine.
India's rush to develop vaccines is understandable - the country has recorded over 80,000 new cases every day for the past few weeks and has over 9.6 lakh active cases (only the United States has more).
With input from PTI